- Philippa Carter (Chairman)
- Mark Tribe
- Peter Rance
- Tom Simcox (District Councillor)
- Responsible Financial Officer: Stuart Fox
- Angela Barnes
Members of the public
- Don Barnes
- Chris George
- Mark Dawbarn
- John Cull
- Simon Gidman
Apologies received from CCllr Rodney Rose and Cllr Sandy Timms.
The recorded Minutes from the Annual Parish Meeting held on 25 April 2016 were agreed, dated, signed and filed.
3. CHAIRMAN’S REPORT
Two issues which have dominated our time this year this year have been Planning and the Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) budget cuts which have led to responsibilities and costs for some services being devolved down to Parish level. The decisions taken so far are that we will not accept responsibility for cutting the grass on our Parish rural verges but will probably continue to cut the verges within the 30mph limit once we have negotiated the new contract. All subsidised non-statutory bus services were withdrawn in June 2016 and so we agreed to share the cost of the volunteer-operated Villager service with other Parishes in proportion to the number of Ascott residents using the service. It is a minimal service and has proved a popular and important lifeline. We also contribute to the costs of the Wychwood Library in proportion to the number of users per village. Both these subsidies will be regularly reviewed. The Wychwood Day Centre has been informed that OCC will withdraw all subsidy this year and so we are waiting to hear how the trustees decide to go forward.
At this stage we have not been made aware of any other responsibilities that may be devolved down and so Ascott Parish Council has felt able to set the precept for 2017/18 at a lower level than last year. We hope that next year our costs will become much more stable but it is still a time for upheaval in local government with discussions on a Unitary Council ongoing and a new or renewed Central Government imminent.
Major planning issues for us have been the WODC draft Local Plan and the application to develop the garage site at Maple Way. In both cases residents and the Parish Council worked together as a strong force. 2 large sites proposed for inclusion in the revised Local Plan were not selected and the new draft is now with the Inspector.
The first Maple Way application was rejected by the Planning Committee and the second drawn up in consultation with Ascott PC and residents, ATP Architects and Cottsway Housing.
This application is now available for public comments until 18 May.
2 grant funded projects were undertaken this year and our thanks must go to the many people and organisations who supported the Parish Council and Sports Club. Practical completion of the playing field drainage was signed off in October and now there is a period of making good to make sure that the field is completely flat and the grass is growing well in the drainage lines. The re-building of the East wall of the Pound was finished in August and we buried time capsules in the centre just before the capping stones were put on. They contained Elaine Byles’ excellent ‘Potted History of Ascott-under-Wychwood’ and current news items. What a lot happened between March and August last year!
We recently attended a most productive meeting with Shipton and Milton PCs at the Paddocks and everyone agreed that a meeting twice a year would be worthwhile. We have many concerns in common and so it is very useful to share ideas and experiences. We have shared our respective Community Emergency Plans with details of our refuge centres. All Plans have recently been updated.
We have now developed a thorough Risk Assessment Schedule for all the village land and assets that the Parish Council is responsible for on behalf of Parishoners. This is reviewed every 6 months and is an integral part of our audit. Our aim has been to bring these assets up to a state of good and safe repair within the life span of this Council.
Residents regularly complain to us about the state of the roads. This is one of our most time-consuming and frustrating tasks as the Highways Dept can be extremely unresponsive and obstructive. We have once again approached OCC about serious safety concerns at the 3 entry points to the village and offered suggestions as to how to improve matters.
Joint Councillors’ surgeries continue every alternate month and the next one will be this coming Saturday 29th April, 11.30-12.30 in the Pavilion. We hope that the June surgery will return to the Swan Inn which is due to re-open on 1 May. We were very pleased to welcome our new MP, Mr Robert Courts, to the last surgery and the Parishioners who attended took part in a very lively debate with Mr Courts and all Local Councillors.
We have taken the unusual step of writing to the whole village to ask if anyone is willing to join the Parish Council. Personal approaches have not been successful. People may have been put off by the workload that we have had recently but we do believe that much of our recent work will not have to be repeated for many years. More Parish Councillors would mean that the workload would be reduced for everybody and we would not struggle to muster a quorum of 3 for making decisions. What a shame if Parish Council work should pass to WODC and ‘on-the-spot’ local representation be lost. This current PC has 1 more year of its term to run.
I would just like to close by thanking our whole team for all their time and hard work this year. My Vice-Chairman, Sandy Timms, Parish Councillors Mark Tribe and Peter Rance, our Clerk Angela Barnes, our Grounds Maintenance contractor, Shane Barnes and our Responsible Financial Officer, Stuart Fox. I know that they all have many other jobs and responsibilities and I really have appreciated their support.
4. PARISH FINANCIAL REPORT
The Council’s total income for the year ended 31st March 2017 was £107,824 (including internal transfers of £8,150); this was considerably up of last year’s total of £34,109. The increase related to grants and donations of £67,134 towards the playing field drainage scheme and £819 grants and donations towards the cost of rebuilding the village pound wall.
We held the precept at the same level as the previous year as we were still unsure about additional costs that we might have to take on from the County Council.
Expenditure for the year was 94,842 (again including internal transfers to our various funds of £8150) compared with £16,438 last year. The bulk of the increase was the costs of the playing field drainage scheme £69,353. We also spent £2,020 renewing the sport’s pavilion boiler, £748 rebuilding the pound wall, £600 subsidising the village bus service and £525 supporting Wychwood Library.
Our regular costs have all shown small increases, with a 1% pay raise for our hard-working clerk, insurance costs rising by £99 as a result of increases in insurance premium tax and some additional cover and the playing field and grounds contract being renegotiated to include additional work in the Parish.
Overall the Parish had a surplus of income over expenditure of £12,983, bringing our total up to £54,069 of which £50,304 is held as bank deposits an increase of £9.936 over last year.
Our parish reserves are made up as follows; snow clearance funds £4,162, railway station planting fund £617, playground maintenance fund £1,669, tree maintenance fund £500 and the playing field drainage maintenance fund £3,432. This leaves the Parish general funds with a balance of £43,689.
The council considers that our current level of funding is sufficient for the future needs and in setting our budget for 2017/18 decided to reduce the precept from £31,000 to £25,000. If all of our budgeted projects and costs occur in 2017/18 we will see a reduction in our overall reserves by the end of the current financial year ending on 31st March 2018.
5. COMMUNITY EMERGENCY PLAN
Our Community Emergency Plan has been reviewed and updated. The winter resilience equipment has been temporarily housed beside the Sports Pavilion while the sale of Crown Farm was being completed. We have been in touch with the new owners and a decision about the new permanent home will be taken by the autumn. Thanks to Laurence Mellor for continuing to supervise this part of the Emergency Plan and for remaining on the Emergency Team which is otherwise made up of Parish Councillors.
We are sharing our Emergency Planning with the other 2 Wychwood Parish Councils as well as other common issues such as crime and speeding. We recently attended a most productive meeting with Shipton and Milton PCs at the Paddocks and everyone thought that a meeting twice a year in future would be very helpful.
6. MEMORIAL PLAYING FIELD
Practical completion of the Playing Field Drainage Scheme was signed off in October and now there will be a period of making good until the ground is completely flat and well seeded. We sincerely hope that the new drainage scheme will help to rejuvenate team sports, as well as the Sports Club organisation based at the Pavilion. We must thank all our contributors. In order of the size of the grants:-
Ascott Parish Council
Windrush Valley School
Playing Field Legacy Fund
Ascott-u-W Sports Club
Ascott Village Charity
Ascott Football Club
Juliet Heseltine’s Art Talk
Private personal donations
There was a shortfall of £489.41 as we were obliged to conduct a second set of searches when Sport England agreed to increase their original offer. Thank you to Richard Smith of Pennington Manches for helping us with all the legal work.
All snagging is planned to be signed off in October when the contractors will hand all responsibility back to the Parish Council. Particular thanks must be given to Laurence Mellor who spent a huge amount of time liaising with Sport England, TGMS Consultants and the Contractors, Agripower.
There are 14 allotment plots available and we currently have 11 tenants who are actively working on their plot. The vacant plots will be advertised.
8. HELPERS OF ASCOTT-UNDER-WYCHWOOD
The ‘Helpers’ is a volunteer organisation started by the previous Parish Council but always meant to be self-sufficient. Consequently, it takes on work that is not exclusively the responsibility of the Parish Council but is still to the benefit of the wider Village community. We either work individually, in small ad hoc groups or in large group sessions depending on the task and people’s availability. Some people have expert knowledge and skills – others, like me, are just willing labourers!
We have held extremely successful large group sessions for the annual litter pick, trimming the low growth on the Church lime trees and cutting back the ivy on the Playing Field and Church perimeter walls. Smaller groups have tended to the station gardens, keeping the area around the pavilion clear and will soon be painting the inside of the pavilion in stages throughout this summer. Individuals sometimes work alone making repairs or doing smaller maintenance jobs. There have been some wonderful individual contributions towards the landscaping of the garden opposite the Signal Box this year, making it safer and the soil more stable. No parish money is ever spent on the station gardens – small grants come from Network Rail and GWR.
Thank you to every member of our special band but especially to:
- Brian Mitchell for working every single week with the Wychwood Project volunteers on re-building the East Pound wall.
- Pete Moss for the gate, Rob Lane for the steps and Phil Pratley for the iron work at the garden opposite the signal box.
- Sandy Timms for organising the Litter Pick at such short notice when I had to disappear due to the imminent arrival of our second grand-daughter!
- And finally to my long suffering right-hand man – Mr Nick Carter, every home should have one!
9. TRANSPORT (Trains)
Regrettably, First GW (now the “GWR” franchise) service operators continue to give no signs of increasing our minimal one train each way on weekdays only service. The Cotswold Line Promotion Group (CLPG) have concluded that no possible change will occur at least before the December 2018 publication of a new timetable, and with so many issues arising from the delayed main line electrification programme, even that timetable is an unpredictable entity.
On a positive note however, the popularity of the special pre-Christmas Saturday services which were reintroduced in 2015, were successfully repeated in 2016, and we will press for their continuation in 2017. Also, since mid April this year, our morning train to Oxford, no longer terminates there but now travels non-stop to Didcot Parkway for connecting trains to Reading and London.
A very recent further initiative suggested by CLPG, was a PC led resident enquiry of their level of support for a trial, weekday “Group Saver fare” extra stop of an existing mid-morning train to Oxford and beyond, and mid-afternoon return. A substantial response was gained from our resident and Shipton PC have resident interest in a Shipton stop too. As the new GWR timetable begins in May, we have asked CLPG to approach the GWR Cotswold Line Manager with a formal request for this initiative for any Tuesday in June.
We can but hope that the trial will run, prove successful for residents and GWR, and just perhaps, show GWR that their current stance denies them valuable custom.
10. COUNTY COUNCILLOR RODNEY ROSE
Work in the Charlbury and Wychwood Division – I attend Parish Council meetings across the Division as often as I can, and assist with dealings with OCC as needed, whether from these meetings, or by email and phone requests. Local surgeries are open to parishioners on the last Saturday of the month, alternating between Ascott and Shipton.
The County Council set its budget for 2017/18 on Tuesday 14th February. Ahead of the meeting, it was announced the Council had £1,957,000 extra, over and above the position reported to the Cabinet in January, as a result of better than expected business rate collections, council tax collection fund surpluses and a higher than expected grant.
The Council voted to hold £926,000 of this until the 2018/19 financial year, to deal with future pressures. The rest of the money was allocated in the following ways:
- £170,000 to be spent on additional grass-cutting work on highway verges. This is an area of spend that has been reduced in recent years.
- £250,000 one-off funding initially for a pilot Communities Fund for parishes and towns to bid for matched funding schemes following changes/reductions for funding for services.
- £600,000 additional funding for children’s social care – a part of the council that has been exempted from cuts since 2010 but has continued to experience significant rising demand on services in common with children’s social care departments across England.
- £11,000 increase on the Council’s Flood Defence Levy
The additional funding for Adult Social care announced in the recent budget is welcome news however we are waiting for guidance as to what and where the funds can be spent. It is thought that the funds have to be spent on new projects for further integration with Health care rather than replacing services.
Unitary Local Government
Along with South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse, the County council has submitted a proposal to central government for a new single authority in Oxfordshire. Throughout the process we have been kept all other councils, including WODC informed; there is an open invitation to join us to discuss the issues that matter to their residents. One council would be responsible for all the environmental services such as street cleaning and road maintenance. Joining up social services, housing and benefits improves support for people who need extra help. One website, one phone number, one contact for all your council services; no duplication one council costs less to run than six, with fewer councillors and senior managers. One council saves at least £20m each year, which can be used to deliver better services and protect them from future cuts. However, I very much doubt Whitehall will look at any of this with very much urgency – Brexit negotiations were already using all capacity in Departments in Westminster, and the sudden need to explore all ramifications of any new manifesto, following the surprise General Election will totally overburden the system for many months to come
FIX MY STREET
If you notice a problem or defect on the road you can report it easily on line 24 hours a day. Recently OCC has been working hard to make Fix My Street work more effective with the launch of a new service. It will improve the quality and consistency of public reports, as well as OCC internal processes for closing down reports, making it easier to reliably see what’s going on in a given area. Members of the public who consistently give good information can be rewarded with ‘trusted reporter’ status, meaning OCC will fast track future reports to the contractor, resulting in quicker resolution for the resident and reduced effort for the inspectors. Added to this will be an extra “Dragon Patcher” [as seen in Shipton some months ago], which will help speed up small repairs
My Strategic Rail portfolio takes up a fair bit of my time. As Chairman of the EastWestRail Delivery Board, I was very pleased to be part of the opening of the Oxford to Oxford Parkway link, with onward connection to Marylebone – a useful alternative to the Paddington line. I am currently working with GWR who are working up plans to increase the size of the car park at Charlbury Station. I have found the current car park to be inadequate by 8am during the working week on numerous occasions, so I am sure some enlargement is definitely needed. Currently, we are looking to increase parking by an extra 270 spaces.
COUNTY COUNCIL ELECTIONS
On May 4th, all Divisions of the County stand for election. I have represented the Wychwood Division [and more latterly, the Charlbury & Wychwood Division] for the last 20 years, and would like to thank all for allowing me the honour of doing this. I will be standing for re-election again on May 4th.
11. DISTRICT COUNCILLOR TOM SIMCOX
Last year I reported on the status of the draft Local Plan for future housing supply for West Oxfordshire. We had been turned away to add more housing and also to take into account the unmet housing need of Oxford City. The assessment of the additional houses that West Oxfordshire should take on behalf of Oxford was carried out last summer, and new sites were sought to take the increased numbers, two of which were in Ascott-Under-Wychwood. Fortunately, both sites were not deemed suitable. The plan was resubmitted with increased numbers across the district and the inclusion of a new Garden Village to the north of Eynsham which will comprise of 2,200 new houses. The plan was submitted and is now in front of the inspector, for the hearing next month. We are confident that we have addressed the concerns voiced last year and that we should see the local plan in place later this year. Although the large population centres will feel the changes the most, having the plan in place will enable communities like Ascott to live without the spectre of opportunistic housing developments. In fact, the Burford to Charlbury sub-area in which Ascott resides already has about 70% of its housing allocation for the next 14 years.
West Oxfordshire County council have been continuing with our 2020 Vision for shared services. This has so far saved around 15% of our annual budget, without cutting public services. The big change in 2016/7 was the formation of Ubico a local authority company owned by Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Boroughs, Cotswold, Forest of Dean, Stroud and West Oxfordshire Districts and Gloucestershire County Council. Ubico is capable of and does provide services such as:
- Household waste and recycling collections
- Commercial waste and recycling collections
- Household recycling centre management
Buildings and public toilet cleaning
- Street cleaning
- Grounds and cemetery maintenance
Fleet management and maintenance
- MOT and taxi testing
- Winter maintenance (gritting)
West Oxfordshire has selected Ubico as it new provider of Waste collection which has come into action recently.
We have continued to run our joint councillor surgeries every other month in Ascott, on the last occasion we were joined by our new MP Robert Courts, it was our most successful surgery in terms of attendance, but even if they are not queuing out the door it provides a good opportunity to spend an hour discussing issues and topics in the village.
Our next surgery is this Saturday at the Sports Pavillion at 11.30.
12. ORGANISATIONS REPORT
Chipping Norton Police
There was 1 reported crime in the Ascott Under Wychwood area. 0 of which are non-crime incidents for example Adult Protection, Child Protection and Domestic Incidents
Bank card and cheque fraud Bank card and cheque fraud happens when criminals steal your cards or chequebook and gain access to funds in your account.
Criminals steal your bank cards or cheque book; or they obtain your card or account details, allowing them to take money from your account or run up credit in your name. You’ll usually notice this by seeing unfamiliar transactions on your statements, or suddenly finding that you’ve exceeded your overdraft limit or credit limit and your card is refused when you try to make a purchase. Here are some of the ways a fraudster could steal money from you:
ATM (cash machine) fraud A fraudster uses a device to capture your card information as you are withdrawing money from an ATM. The fraudster then uses this information to take money from your account in a shop, online or from an ATM.
Counterfeit cards A fraudster counterfeits your bank card by using a device to capture the card and account information embedded in your card’s magnetic strip. This is often known as ‘skimming’. The fraudster then uses this information to carry out fraudulent transactions in countries where chip and PIN technology is not supported. The fraudster may also use this information in transactions where the card doesn’t have to be physically seen by the retailer or merchant. For example, when shopping online; buying goods by telephone or mail order; or using cardholder activated terminals, such as ticket machines.
Lost or stolen card fraud In this case, fraudsters use your card before you are able to report it as lost or stolen. A new or replacement card may also be stolen before you receive it. For example, if you have moved address recently and not had your mail redirected; or if your mail is delivered to a communal mailbox.
Identity fraud A fraudster may have stolen enough information about your identity and financial affairs to take over your account or to impersonate you. The fraudster will gain access to your account after getting through security online, at a bank branch or call centre, or by teaming up with someone inside the organisation that holds your account. If the fraudster can impersonate you, he or she will open accounts in your name and then defraud them.
What should you do if you’ve been a victim of bank card or cheque fraud?
• Immediately report lost or stolen cards or suspected fraudulent use of your card to your card company. You should also report lost or stolen cheque books or any missing cheques. Banks and companies have 24-hour emergency numbers printed on account statements.
• Report the offence to the relevant bank or card company, which will then be responsible for reporting the matter to the police. If the theft of your cards or cheques involved another crime – for example, if your bag was also stolen – you should make sure it is reported to the police.
• If a fraudulent account has been set up in your name and you don’t have a relationship with that bank or card company, you can report the fraud directly to Action Fraud.
• Remember to keep a record of all communications.
• Get a copy of your personal credit report from one of the credit reference agencies:
• Consider contacting CIFAS – the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service to apply for protective registration. Once you have registered, CIFAS members will carry out extra checks whenever anyone applies for a financial service using your name and address.
Protect yourself against bank card and cheque fraud Secure your PIN:
• memorise your PIN and destroy any paper notification as soon as you receive it
• ensure that you’re the only person that knows your PIN. Never write it down or record it. Your bank or the police will never phone you and ask you to disclose your PIN
• when entering your PIN, use your free hand and your body to shield the number from prying eyes or hidden cameras. If you think someone has seen your PIN or if you want to change it to something more memorable, you can change it at a cash machine (ATM) or by contacting your bank.
Take care when using cash machines:
• put your personal safety first. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, cancel the transaction and use a different machine
• if you spot anything unusual about the cash machine, or if there are signs of tampering, don’t use it. Report it to the bank concerned immediately
• be alert. If someone is crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction and go to another machine. Don’t accept help from seemingly well-meaning strangers and never allow yourself to be distracted
• once you’ve completed a transaction, put your money and card away before leaving the cash machine. If the cash machine doesn’t return your card, report its loss immediately to your card company. Destroy or preferably shred your cash machine receipt, mini-statement or balance enquiry when you dispose of them.
When banking online:
• make sure your computer has up-to-date anti-virus software and a firewall installed. Think about using anti-spyware software. Download the latest security updates, known as patches, for your browser and for your operating system
o before you bank online, ensure that the locked padlock or unbroken key symbol is showing in your browser. When a connection is secure, the beginning of your bank’s internet address should change from ‘http’ to https’
• be wary of unsolicited emails – known as phishing emails – asking for personal financial information. Your bank or the police would never contact you to ask you to disclose your PIN
• ensure your browser is set to the highest level of security notification and monitoring. The safety options are not always activated by default when you install your computer.
• always access internet banking sites by typing the bank’s address into your web browser. Never go to a website from a link in an email and then enter your personal details.
When shopping online:
sign up to Verified by Visa or MasterCard SecureCode whenever you’re given the option while shopping online. This involves you registering a password with your card company
only shop on secure sites. Before submitting your card details, ensure the locked padlock or unbroken key symbol is showing in your browser. The retailer’s internet address will change from ‘http’ to ‘https’ when a connection is secure
never send your PIN over the internet
print out your order and keep copies of the retailer’s terms and conditions, returns policy, delivery conditions, postal address (not a post office box) and phone number (not a mobile number).
Cold Stone Angling
The Club has had quite a successful season, with a rise in membership, a very good fund raising evening which again was well attended and the Club recorded a record profit for the evening. On competitions the Club won the Inter Club completion with teams of 10 from Charlbury, Chipping Norton and ourselves with one point between 1st and 2nd in Coldstone Angling Club’s favour. The club’s competions overall for a small club were well attended with matches on the River Thames, the canal fishing very well, whilst the River Evenlode remains very patchy. Preditation still remains a big problem with the club having to purchase bigger fishe to stop commorants from eating them, also we are trapping crayfish on a regular basis. Last, but not least, with otters becoming more numerous we are hoping to install otter fencing around the lake.
No repot received.
This year has been a relatively quiet year for the Hall in terms of improvements and upgrades After all the works to the Hall over the past 4/5 years, I did promise this to the committee at last years’ Tiddy AGM and I have stuck to my manifesto obligations !
The one main improvement to the Hall has been the upgrading of the stage area. In July of last year we spent a not inconsiderable sum to have stage and backdrop curtains installed to give the stage area more impact, and certainly from those that have used the stage the response has been very encouraging.
We may look to upgrade the ladies toilets this year and there is some general housekeeping to be undertaken during the summer but otherwise large scale changes may be kept to a minimum.
All the committee went on a village bus trip to Levantie in northern France to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Reginald Tiddy, our patron, on August 10th 1916 and the anniverary 2016 are very important dates for Tiddy Hall and as part of the commemoration process Fools Gambit and the Oxford Morris men put on a memorable show at Tiddy on August 6th. It is perhaps worth remembering that Fools Gambit had come from all over the country to perform here as part of their tour to commemorate the deaths not only of Reginald Tiddy but also Cecil Sharp and George Butterworth, who all died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
We are hoping to set up a display cabinet in the committee room very soon which will hold all the various historical documents we have and in fact a Boosey and Co bugle dated 1916 which was used at the battle of the Somme has already been kindly donated to the Hall to add to our collection.
The Hall continues to be well used by the community and despite all the various financial outgoings we have managed to maintain our cash reserve at about £ 15,000.00. The pre-school remain our biggest user and we are very grateful to them for their support as we are to the Wychwood Folk Club who have provided us with so many outstanding performers. In fact the Folk Club use the hall on an even more frequent basis because of the temporary closure of the Swan pub. In addition the hall is regularly used by the Roseneath School of music, ,Quigong evenings, the race night, Flix in the Stix ,Circuits, Badminton and The Wychwood school. New users of the hall are the Pilates Club, the Fit Club and Tea dancing club, so at the moment I’m pleased to say that the Hall is being well used.
Our aim continues for rental income from the Hall to cover all day-to-day running expenses – utilities, cleaning, insurance, taxes etc. with improvements, repairs and capital expenditure being financed from fund-raising activities.
Parochial Church Council
The Parish of Holy Trinity Ascott-under-Wychwood is part of the Chase Benefice which also includes the parishes of Chadlington, Enstone and Spelsbury. The Benefice is served by two clergy members, the Reverend Mark Abrey, Rector, and the Reverend Marian Needham, Associate Priest. The PCC consisted of 5 members, one of whom has been the Deanery Synod representative, plus the two clergy members and has support from the Secretary.
For the benefit of the community as a whole this historic Church is kept open daily during daylight hours and the Churchyard provides an amenity for all comers and for those passing through.
As at 13th March 2016 there were 40 parishioners on the Church Electoral Roll. The average number of persons from Ascott-under-Wychwood attending regular weekly services was 12, and this number was substantially increased at festivals.
A range of regular services is held within the Benefice and this provides for a service to be held each week within one of the Churches of the Benefice. Inter-generational services are held within the Benefice each month and services are held at Harvest, Remembrance, Christmas and Easter. Additionally there were three confirmations, two baptisms and five funerals held in the Church during the year. A non-denominational mid-month Meditation is held on the third Tuesday of each month.
During the year the Church has continued its membership of Inclusive Church. It participated in December in a special service to mark the longest night of the year. It arranged Lent and Advent supper/lectures. The Clergy have given support to the sick, the bereaved and the housebound and special home services have been arranged for those who are unable to attend Church. A visiting group is being arranged for the Benefice. A Mission Action Plan is being prepared at Benefice level for adoption by the parishes.
There has been involvement by parishioners and the local community in services and other activities including flower arranging, bell ringing, and cleaning and Church and Churchyard maintenance. The Parish magazine Grapevine is distributed quarterly and work is under way on further development of the Benefice website.
The maintenance of the fabric of the Church and upkeep of the Churchyard are important to parishioners and of much value to the wider community. As a result of prudent husbandry in the past, it was only necessary in 2016 to carry out routine maintenance to the Church building, which nevertheless is a charge on the Church’s finances. It became necessary during the year to install an alarm system to deter the theft of lead from the roof and also to arrange expensive insurance against such theft. The cost of this installation and insurance was borne by generous donations and an available grant, but was also a charge on the Church’s reserves and income.
Necessary work was carried out during the year on the avenue of lime trees with financial help from the Parish Council, the Ascott Village Charity and from many donors who responded to the appeal. Invaluable practical help was also received from the Parish Council and its volunteers as well as from volunteers from the congregation. Continuing work on the epicormic growth on the lower parts of the trees will be required for some time and work on the improvement of the Churchyard pathways is scheduled for 2017.
Extensive work is to be carried out on the bells in the near future and applications for grants will be made, and appeals for donations. Various fund raising activities are planned in 2017.
The Church has no external source of income and has to support itself from parishioners’ and other donations and occasional grants towards specific projects.
Receipts for the year on unrestricted funds were approximately £17000, of which approximately £9000 was planned voluntary donations including Gift Aid. The outcome for the year on unrestricted funds was a deficit of £3,629, one of the largest deficits suffered by the Church in recent years, a situation which the PCC view as serious. Total expenditure for the year was £25,375. The major items of essential expenditure were the Parish Share (which goes to meet diocesan and wider Church expenses), insurance and the Parish’s share of Benefice costs, all of which totaled £18,431.
The editors of the Grape Vine magazine appreciate and give thanks for the annual financial support that we receive from the Parish Council. This covers 25% of the cost of printing the magazine each year and together with donations we receive from private individuals, the village pantomime and advertising revenue allow us to produce and deliver the Grape Vine to every house in the village plus the surrounding farms.
We also thank all our contributors who provide many interesting and varied contributions to the magazine, but we take this opportunity to invite all clubs, groups and individuals within Ascott to support our village magazine by providing articles, photographs and news.
Leafield C of E School
No report received
The Village Shop
Five members of the Shop Management Committee were elected by the shareholders at the AGM, held on 21 June 2016. The Shop Manager is a sixth, ex-officio member of the Committee. The Committee meets every three months and Minutes are made available to shareholders. Every adult resident can become a shareholder for a one-off payment of £10 for a single non-refundable share. All shareholders have the right to attend and vote at the AGM.The shop continues to operate on a not-for-profit basis and is very largely run by village volunteers. The shop’s aim remains “to be owned by the village, run by the village and there for the village”.The accounts for 2016 have been prepared and were approved by the Committee in March. They are now with the Independent Accountant for his scrutiny and will be presented to the AGM, which is to be held at The Swan on 21 June 2017 at 7.30pm.The shop was broken into on the night of 28/29 January 2017. A stock check later showed that nothing was stolen but the damage to the shop cost £340 in repairs and an approximate loss of £43 in sales during the police investigation. The thief, James Whittaker, was caught, charged and pleaded guilty. He was committed to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months, at Banbury Magistrates’ court on 12 April. The shop made a small operating profit of £1,272 during 2016, with sales totalling £132,949. The number of village customers appears to be static at around 75 people regularly using the shop. We have begun a process of replacing some of our, now aged, equipment – freezers, oven, and chillers. This will create a strain on our finances but we have some reserves, which make this essential course of action viable.
The Village Charity
This charity was originally set up for the relief of poverty in the village and to provide financial assistance to its young people towards their education. Its predecessors were known as the Poor’s Estate and as the Lower Green Charity.
The Trustees of the Charity meet regularly under the chairmanship of John Cull and throughout the period covered by the Report the Trustees were John Cull, the Revd Mark Abrey, Elaine Byles, Stuart Fox (Treasurer), Keith Ravenhill, Pauline Marshall, Sandy Timms (a member of the Parish Council) and Mark Dawbarn (also Secretary to the Trustees). The Constitution of the Charity states that there must be at least five Trustees of whom at least one should be a member of the Parish Council.
The Charity owns the freehold of the field known as Lower Green, which is near to the bridge over the river Evenlode on the Chipping Norton road. The field continues to be held under a lease to local residents for a 25-year term for grazing purposes, expiring on 1st January 2030.
In their educational activities, The Trustees have continued to hold funds available in connection with their scheme for assisting residents with grants towards the purchase of books or equipment for the purposes of their studies. They made three such grants during the year and continue to advertise the scheme in order that all eligible residents are encouraged to apply. The Trustees would be glad to hear of any cases where residents of the village may be eligible for a grant.
A Charity Run in October 2017 is being planned. The Trustees are considering an award of any surplus towards the necessary repairs to the bells at Holy Trinity Church.
The Trustees have powers in appropriate cases to make monetary grants to individuals resident in the village who suffer financial hardship and they have dealt with applications under this heading. They continue to be prepared to look sympathetically and in confidence at any cases of hardship or misfortune where a grant from the Charity might help to relieve a difficult situation.
A booklet describing the village and its history and amenities was produced in November/December 2016 by trustee Elaine Byles on behalf of the Charity and has been widely distributed for the information of residents and visitors.
The Trustees are open in a general way to suggestion as to how their activities can be made known to the local community, as to ways in which funds to pay for the causes they support can be raised and as to local causes whom they might benefit with a financial grant.
The Charity has received generous financial support from residents of the village, including customers of the village shop who have put money in the Charity box.
The Trustees consider that the financial position of the Charity remains sound and they have three sources of funds, namely the General Fund, the Poor’s Fund and the Flood Relief Fund from which they can make grants to local causes. The amount available for expenditure by the Trustees as at 31st December 2016 was approximately £4,000 in the General Fund and £4000 in the Poor’s Fund.
The Wychwood Day Centre
The Day Centre celebrates its twentieth anniversary this year since its original formation as The Wychwoods Day Centre Association. It continues to provide an invaluable facility for the elderly of the local villages, where they can get out of the house, socialise with friends, enjoy a varied range of activities and a hot lunch with morning/afternoon refreshments in happy and secure surroundings.
It provides the opportunity for up to twenty two people to meet once a week in Beaconsfield Hall, Shipton. Its operation continues to be entirely dependent on the support of a team of around 50 helpers, cooks and drivers who volunteer their time to help it run smoothly and is wonderfully run by our Ascott based Coordinator, Katherine Gidman. Over the past year, over thirty nine individuals have benefitted from the facilities provided.
There is a waiting list for places which is indicative of the need for the service and as soon as a place becomes available it is filled. As far as Ascott residents are concerned, six members attended the Day Centre through most of the year, with a further four on the reserve list waiting to take a full place when available.
In addition, for the past four years a monthly meeting has been arranged of a larger group called Good Companions which meets in Milton Parish Hall and provides an afternoon of entertainment, including tea for around forty people, including carers.
Relieving the loneliness and isolation felt by some cannot be calculated, but both activities enable their members to benefit from being out of the home in the company of others, in total terms, for around seven and a half thousand hours annually.
Oxfordshire County Council has now announced the cessation of grants to daytime support voluntary sector services from August 2017, although some transition/sustainability funding is available for the next two years.
Since Councillor Rose forewarned the Trustees in 2015 of the threat to withdraw the grant, the Day Centre has accelerated its fundraising efforts and built up its reserves, but has still not found a solution which ensures a sustainable operation, as the grant represents half of its costs. The last two years have resulted in a record level of donations being generated, assisted by strong local community support.
Following the award of some transition funding through to March 2018, it is now in the process of re evaluating the options available to ensure ongoing viability when the funding ceases. This review will be completed by end September 2017.
The year ahead will be another challenging one for the Day Centre in trying to agree a plan which provides sustainability, but also maintaining its pool of volunteers to ensure its effective operation. This is considered a greater near term risk. New offers of help to drive, cook or assist during the day would be much appreciated from Ascott residents as well as enquiries from anyone who might be interested in becoming a Trustee.
The Trustees would like to thank Ascott Parish Council for again being so supportive of the Day Centre in the last year with the awarding of the Carols around the Tree collection which raised £320 and its annual grant of £500.
Cllr Carter thanked everybody for attending and for their continued support. The meeting was then declared closed.
Chairman Cllr Philippa Carter
Dated 30 April 2018